Assortment Optimization: Why It Is Important For Your eCommerce Business

Assortment Optimization

When it comes to maximizing the potential revenue of your eCommerce business, few things can be more valuable than assortment optimization. The right mix of products can make all the difference in helping control your business costs, while also maintaining your appeal with customers.

Sound assortment planning is especially valuable in today’s environment, when supply chain issues continue to disrupt operations for many products and industries across the globe.

Here’s a closer look at how product assortment optimization can help your eCommerce business or marketplace thrive — and how today’s technology makes assortment planning easier than ever.

What Is Assortment Optimization?

In its most basic sense, product assortment optimization is the process in which an eCommerce business or marketplace decides which products it should offer to shoppers. This mix of goods is strategically selected based on customer preferences to maximize the store’s revenue.

Finding the optimal assortment generally focuses on two main types of products: fast-moving goods that sell at higher quantities but deliver a lower profit margin per item sold (like clothing), and higher-end goods that sell slower but have a higher profit margin (such as electronics). 

Successful eCommerce marketplaces generally build their merchandise assortment strategy with these two broad types of products in mind, as this ensures the most consistent flow of revenue from their customer base.

Why You Should Use Assortment Gap Analysis

While assortment optimization may sound easy, the reality is far different. It is all too easy to develop an inadequate product mix that doesn’t offer enough variety to keep customers engaged. In some cases, a lack of alternative products can result in lost sales if an item goes out of stock due to supply chain issues or other factors. For other products, SKUs that are too similar to each other can ultimately cannibalize sales.

A recent analysis by Pimcy determined that while product failure rates aren’t the staggering 95% reported by some sources, at least 40% of new product launches could be considered a failure. In their analysis, they also noted that “a distinction in failure rates can be made across the various types of innovation: incremental innovation, more innovative development, and radical innovation. […] The failure rate increases the more innovative the solution is. However, on the upside, there also is the potential for a bigger return.”

Whether the product is something completely new or simply an improved version of a product that is already on the market, there is never a guarantee that it will be a success. This is especially true in the competitive world of eCommerce, where new marketplaces often struggle to thrive against more established competition.

Despite these sobering statistics, customers are often interested in trying something new, particularly in product categories like clothing or jewelry. Part of what keeps them coming back to an eCommerce business is the promise that it will have something new for them to try — be it a new T-shirt design, improved backpacking gear, or something else entirely.

Because of this, assortment optimization is an ongoing process. It can’t be a “one and done” activity. Customer preferences, supply chain factors, the introduction of new products and the discontinuation of old products means the product mix may be constantly changing. An assortment gap analysis must be performed regularly to ensure your business is introducing new products that will connect with customers — and removing products that are no longer making a profit.

Why the Time Is Now For Better Assortment Planning

With more competition thanks to the rising popularity of digital shopping, eCommerce businesses and marketplaces must prioritize assortment optimization like never before. Understanding which items are missing from your catalogs can make all the difference — and fortunately, this process no longer needs to be left to guesswork.

Running an assortment gap analysis helps your business determine best-selling products or categories from reputable sellers that should be added to the online store. Data-driven, AI-enabled tools use web scraping and other data retrieval methods to gather information on billions of products across multiple channels. 

eCommerce stores that use these solutions can download information on a relevant product category, retrieve GTINs for best-selling items and obtain product lists by seller. By running this assortment gap analysis, an eCommerce marketplace can ask its current sellers to onboard new items that have a proven record of successful sales on other channels. If this isn’t an option, an eCommerce marketplace could attempt to onboard new sellers who offer the desired products.

With quality information readily available through a data-driven assortment gap analysis, it has never been easier to access and utilize this data. Such information is crucial for staying ahead of your competitors — many of whom are using similar resources for their own assortment optimization efforts.

The Benefits of Assortment Optimization

A sound assortment optimization strategy offers several tangible benefits for eCommerce businesses. An assortment gap analysis can help your business understand the eCommerce landscape as a whole — including customer preferences and competitor behaviors. 

With this data, eCommerce businesses can do more than identify new options that can be added to their marketplace. They will be able to identify which mix of products will create a good blend of high-volume and high-profit sales that appeal to their target audience. They will also be better able to identify product lines that are declining in popularity and potentially reducing their profit margins.

This allows marketplaces to create a collaborative relationship with their sellers that focuses on creating win-win solutions. After all, by utilizing shopper insights and providing data-based product onboarding recommendations, marketplaces and sellers can increase their sales success. This creates an atmosphere of transparency and accountability that sees all parties involved better able to optimize their product lineup and take ownership of their results.

Collecting these insights in real time can also lead to more agile and flexible decision making. Quickly identifying trends can help your business mitigate supply chain concerns by adapting its product line based on seasonal changes or other trends. Rapidly pivoting your product assortment ensures you can always offer relevant items at any time of year.

By providing products that shoppers actually want, your eCommerce business can become the go-to online resource for your target audience. 

Strengthen Your Merchandise Assortment Strategy With Cluster

If you’re ready to strengthen your assortment planning processes, Cluster can help. Our Optimal Assortment services are designed to help both marketplaces and brands identify category gaps by assessing product data across channels. With full visibility across the entire eCommerce landscape, you can gain the insights you need to boost sales by presenting relevant, high-demand items to your customers. 

As you use assortment optimization to continually present shoppers with trending, best-selling products from trusted sellers, you will be able to accelerate sustainable growth that builds your reputation and keeps customers coming back time and time again.
With Cluster on your side, lasting marketplace success is closer than you think!

3 Product Page Data Enhancements to Win More Traffic

Product Page Data Enhancements

The eCommerce market is expected to surpass $52 trillion by 2027. That’s nearly 4 times as large as its 2021 value.

More customers mean more competitors. While eBay and then Amazon long dominated the eCommerce scene, the pandemic created a shift. With more time spent at home, consumers had more time to shop around.

Because of that, smaller eCommerce sites have more opportunities to make their mark. How can an online marketplace stand out amongst the growing competition?

The first step is retaining customers. The number one way to do that is product page enhancements.

That’s right, it’s not all about SEO! There’s no point ranking highly on a search engine if customers abandon or don’t even fill their carts. For long-lasting success, your product pages have to convert browsers through to purchase.

Then your site traffic and search engine rankings will organically increase. And your product pages will be optimized enough to sustain your success.

Here’s our guide to specific product page enhancements every marketplace should be making and why.

Improve Loading Speeds

As basic as it sounds, loading speeds can make or break organic traffic generation. If your site or your product images take a few moments to load, it can put users off completely. In fact, 53% of people expect a web page to load within 3 seconds

If it loads too slowly, the same survey found that nearly half of customers will be dissatisfied. And if they click away from your site that quickly, it hurts your traffic substantially.

Buyers want a swift, painless experience. Don’t give them time to second-guess their purchase or your professionalism! 

Accurate Product Information

The best product page enhancements are all about product information. Product data enhancement is the key to winning more site traffic. Attention to detail at this stage is the number one way to push customers through to purchase.

eCommerce product data includes written information, as well as images and other details. We’ve broken down how to improve each area.

Product Descriptions

Product data is everything. Potential buyers want to know every detail about your products. Data-driven product catalog management should be central to your strategy.

That goes beyond dimensions and delivery dates. An eCommerce product description should be as thorough as seeing it in person.

In a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers can pick up the product. They can feel its weight, gauge its size, and read more information on the package.

eCommerce marketplaces can combat these challenges by providing just as much information.

If any product information is missing, consumers won’t have the confidence to buy. Or they may return the product.

For online purchases, the average return rate is a staggering 20%. The problem is not just lost revenue, it’s a loss of confidence in your marketplace.

If your product descriptions do not accurately represent the product, they won’t just return it – they won’t come back. That is less site traffic from repeat customers, which leads to less organic traffic generation.

Clearly, an accurate product description is key to repeat customers, which drives organic traffic.

Accurate product data also helps your product get identified by search engines. Besides a clear description, search engines respond well to these details:

  • Global trade item numbers
  • Manufacturer part numbers
  • Brand names
  • Stock keeping unit numbers

Consistently structured product data is also helpful for both search engines and consumers. On every product page, data should appear in the same order and in the same places, so people know where to look. 

This is especially important if several stocked products are relatively similar. Their differences and unique identifiers should be clear enough that customers and search engines can distinguish between them.

High-Quality Images

Good images are just as important to consumers as good data. Bad images, or worse, none at all, reflect badly on your business. If you can’t provide several high-quality images from a variety of angles, buyers jump to questioning your authenticity.

Your goal should be to provide enough images that users feel they’ve seen the product in person. That will give them the confidence to buy and come back in the future.

Visible Product Reviews

Reviews add to your site’s verifiability. In fact, nearly 90% of customers surveyed said that they read reviews before purchasing a product online. The same survey found that even more than 90% of people trust reviews as much as recommendations from people they know.

Make sure it’s easy to leave a review so that previous buyers do so.

Include an image option with reviews so that buyers can upload images alongside them. These candid review images add to buyer confidence even more than professional ones.

Buyers are also interested in your responses to reviews. If any customer leaves a negative review with a complaint, you may want to respond to save face.

According to the survey mentioned earlier, these business responses are read by and are important to nearly 60% of customers. Make sure you represent your business well and respond in the most considerate way possible.

Product Page Enhancements for Your Online Marketplace

Putting these enhancement tips into practice will win you more traffic. But working with us gets that number even higher.

Our solutions for marketplaces go beyond product data enhancements. They win more traffic by fixing attribution, removing duplicates, forecasting demand, ensuring accurate taxonomy, and creating an optimal shopper experience.

Don’t struggle through manually improving product pages in-house. Instead, let us go through your marketplace with a fine-toothed comb and find every optimization opportunity.

Book a demo with us today to learn how.

7 Tips To Recruit Power Sellers to Your Marketplace

If you’re looking to create a multi-vendor eCommerce marketplace, one of the most important things to consider is how to attract the right vendors to your marketplace.

Although eCommerce marketplaces can be incredibly lucrative, recruiting sellers for your marketplace can be extremely competitive. 

However, if you want to attract thousands of shoppers to your marketplace each day, you must give them what they want — quality sellers. And that means you must have a top-notch seller recruitment strategy.

Here are seven tips to help you figure out how to get vendors to sell on your website:

1. Contact eCommerce sellers on top eCommerce marketplaces

When you’re putting together your seller network, contact merchants on eBay, Facebook, or Amazon that meet the needs of your shoppers. More often than not, these sellers would love the chance for added publicity and likely would agree to also sell their services or products on your marketplace. 

2. How to find a seller offline

Reaching out to sellers via social media and other online marketplaces is a great idea; however, in-person meetings are also highly effective. Today, more organizations are again holding-in-person events after holding virtual-only events during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, you should take every opportunity to connect with vendors at meetings of merchant associations, trade fairs, and other offline events. After you get to know sellers at these events, add them to your social media contact list or send them emails to keep in touch and discuss collaboration prospects.

3. Offer a good user experience

A poor user experience is a major reason your target sellers would opt for Amazon rather than your marketplace so make it easy for vendors to publish and manage orders via your platform. For example, offer sellers an administration panel where they can track how many people viewed their products or service listings. You should also offer to help them publish their listings and provide 24/7 customer support. In addition, build a knowledge base to guide sellers as well as users around your platform. 

4. Employ a smart marketing strategy

A smart marketing strategy is one of the most effective methods to promote your multi-vendor marketplace platform and attract sellers. There are a number of ways you can promote your eCommerce marketplace.

For example, using social media groups, forums, and communities. Social media is a great way to connect with sellers and bring results for your business. Try posting informative and promotional messages on social networks. Regularly sharing information on social media platforms will keep sellers updated about the latest news regarding eCommerce marketplaces in general and your website in particular. Joining merchant communities and forum discussions across different social media websites and channels will also help you connect with them directly. 

5. Target ads properly

Another way to get the word out about your eCommerce marketplace and persuade merchants to join is by running Google search ads and display ads campaigns. Build ads so businesses can register on your online marketplace as sellers. You can also publish your ads on eCommerce websites.

6. Write blogs to attract vendors

Writing blog posts is another effective way to draw merchants to your multi-vendor marketplace. You can write about the successes of your current sellers, offer information about selling on eCommerce marketplaces, and other helpful business information for merchants. Post your blogs on your social media accounts as well as on your website. And you can boost your rank in Google search results by optimizing your blog posts for search engine optimization.

7. Target the right vendors at the right time

The types of merchant you want to attract to your marketplace varies according to where you are in the process. 

  • Stage 1: Launch and development: focus on finding specific merchants rather than specific products. Seek out experienced marketplace vendors with large product catalogs to ensure you’re offering buyers a large variety of good quality products.
  • Stage 2: Established marketplace: after you’ve attracted a sufficient number of experienced vendors, you need to ensure that you’re offering all the products and services that meet the needs of your buyers. Now, you can also onboard and train sellers who are less experienced to ensure they are also successful. However, you still need to keep seeking out experienced vendors to expand your eCommerce marketplace.

Conclusion

Acquiring the right vendors is a critical component of a successful eCommerce marketplace. The tips we’ve offered here will help make your eCommerce marketplace a success. However, attracting vendors is an ongoing process so you should periodically re-evaluate based on the requirements of your buyers.

The Impact of Consumer Spending on the Growth of Online Marketplaces

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were forced to shift their spending online. Now, even as federal, state, and local governments are lifting COVID-related restrictions, most consumers are still not planning to return to their old ways of shopping.

In fact, 85% of consumers indicated they will maintain their online shopping habits post-pandemic, according to a survey from the Alvarez & Marsal Consumer and Retail Group. 

Many of these consumers are shopping on eCommerce marketplaces, such as those operated by eBay, Amazon, and Expedia. And this shift in consumer spending is responsible for the massive online marketplace growth.

The Growth of Online Marketplaces

The marketplace trends in 2022 and beyond have been accelerated by Covid-19. More than 40% of online spending post-pandemic is taking place on eCommerce marketplaces, according to the Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2021. And by 2025, spending on online marketplaces will surpass spending on eCommerce websites in established retail and travel categories, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants’ Trading Places report.

Consumers are attracted to marketplaces because they offer convenience, choice, and value. And eCommerce marketplaces offer suppliers a large pool of customers as well as such value-added services as fulfillment and payments. 

This change in the shopping habits of consumers that has contributed to this marketplace growth has also caused brand owners and retailers to investigate selling on already established marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay. 

In this case, merchants should identify the top marketplaces in their areas and determine how best to optimize for those marketplaces. Every online marketplace is also a search engine that enables consumers to search for and find the products or services that best suit their needs. Marketplace optimization lets sellers’ product listings show in relevant searches, which boosts their chances of selling their goods or services.

To capitalize on the growth of online marketplaces, some merchants are looking at setting up their own marketplaces to help them reach new consumers and new markets, as well as expand their offerings.

However, attracting sellers to eCommerce marketplaces is not an easy proposition. Business owners that aim to build their own marketplaces must identify their target audiences first, then identify the best channels to reach them. And then the operators of these marketplaces must also understand the concerns and interests of potential vendors so they can create the right messaging to recruit the right sellers.

Effectively incorporating new sellers and ensuring their ongoing satisfaction starts with a seamless marketplace onboarding process and includes ongoing customer support and easy website management. 

 

Types of Marketplaces

There are three main types of eCommerce marketplaces: business-to-business (B2C), business-to-consumer (B2C), and peer-to-peer (P2P).

Business-to-Business Marketplaces

A B2B marketplace connects companies (consumers) with other businesses (vendors), such as retailers, wholesalers, or manufacturers, to buy from them. This type of website enables vendors to begin delivering services much faster than if they had to develop their own e-commerce websites or open physical stores. A B2B marketplace helps sellers expand their sales channels and attract new customers.

Examples of popular B2B marketplaces include Amazon Business, Alibaba, DesignRush, Global Sources, and IndiaMART

Business-to-Consumer Marketplaces

A B2C marketplace matches individual consumers with vendors. Large B2C eCommerce marketplaces can be compared with retail stores where consumers can find multiple providers offering a variety of products. 

B2C marketplaces are the most popular marketplace model. However, the giants in the space, including Amazon, eBay, and Booking.com, are likely to maintain monopolies in the B2C marketplace for many years. As such, it may be difficult for new entrants in the market to attract millions of consumers because of this high level of competition.

To succeed in the B2C market, eCommerce companies might want to think about creating niche marketplaces that target consumers that have similar needs and preferences. 

Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

Peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplaces (also known as consumer to consumer) provide platforms for individual buyers and sellers to find each other and trade goods and services

P2P marketplaces allow users to be both consumers and service providers, depending on their needs. For example, Meta (formerly Facebook Marketplace) was created to connect consumers online to sell and/or purchase new or used goods and services within their own neighborhoods. 

Conclusion

With the fundamental shift in consumer spending habits, there’s never been a better time for businesses to build B2C, B2B, or P2P online marketplaces to reach new customers and sell their products or services. Online marketplaces enable companies to grow beyond the limitations of their own operations and infrastructure and take their eCommerce businesses in new directions.